Children's & Fantasy/Sci-Fi Books

Red Bridesmaid (original fantasy flash fiction)

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Here’s a fun piece of flash fiction I entered in a contest at the Terrible Minds blog by Chuck Wendig.

Red Bridesmaid by Henry Herz


It felt as if Zanara the Red Sorceress and I were doomed to an eternal struggle. It was a campaign in which our respective strengths afforded neither of us a decisive advantage. She was far more agile and cunning than I, which made it very difficult to catch and subdue her. However, I was physically stronger. And more importantly, I’d studied the magical arts longer. Years ago, and at great risk, I forged an amulet of power that enabled me to cast spells with unusual speed. I attributed more than one arcane dueling victory to my ability to out-cast my opponent.

Today’s hunt through the ancient stony castle was not dissimilar to other encounters with the devious red sorceress. My greater magical firepower allowed me to take the offensive, while Zanara used her fleetness of foot to evade and tire me. I pursued her up a long spiral flight of steps, and felt fatigue seeping into my legs. I reached the landing, pushed open a stout wooden door, and burst into the Great Room. But, it was only in time to see her exit the doorway at the opposite end of the high-ceilinged room.

The Great Room was crowded with chairs, benches and other furniture. I leapt on to the enormous ornately carved dining table, and sprinted across its varnished surface. Tarnished platters and flatware clattered to the floor. I jumped down, reached the doorway, and took a furtive glance down the hallway. No magical missiles hurtled toward me. Instead, a welcome sight greeted me. Zanara was standing at the far end of a long hallway lined with doors and sputtering torches. The doors must have all been locked, or she would have been well gone by that time.

Winded from the chase, I tried intimidation first. “Halt and submit!” I ordered.

“Catch me if you can, old man,” she replied. Old man? That’s just mean-spirited. Then her lips moved in silence, and her hands wove a rapid, elaborate pattern. Recognizing the spell, I pivoted back into the Great Room out of the line of fire, as a hurricane-strength blast of air blew down the hallway. The blast upended some furniture, but dissipated upon reaching the large open space. Before she could flee or cast again, I lunged into the hallway, arms raised.

Grasping my magical amulet in my uplifted left hand, I leveled my right arm at the red sorceress. Flexing my right wrist upward to angle my palm at the target, I uttered the ancient tongue. A concussive blast travelled down the hallway, snuffing out the torches like matches in a strong breeze. But, Zanara was too quick. She’d managed to open the last door, and made good her escape before the shock wave struck.

Cursing in the modern tongue (because cursing in the ancient tongue can unintentionally summon a demon), I sprinted down the hallway to the last door. The cunning witch had locked it behind her. I stepped back with my right leg, then brought it forward hard, delivering a powerful kick just below the knob. The doorjamb splintered and gave way. I entered and then dodged to my right when a potted plant hurtled at my head. The pot smashed into the wall and shattered. Pieces of plant, dirt clods, and pottery shards showered the floor.

“Stand and fight,” I commanded.

“As I recall, you retreated from my last spell,” she retorted. Still, my insult must have touched a nerve, because instead of retreating through the doorway behind her, Zanara narrowed her eyes, raised her arms, and began a summoning spell.

They say the best defense is a good offense, and my magic amulet greatly reduced my spell casting time. I’d get a spell off first, which would probably prevent her from casting. Probably.

The red sorceress completed her summoning spell, and a slack-jawed zombie materialized in front of her. She pointed at me. “Get the wizard,” she ordered the mindless undead. It grunted a crude acknowledgement, and shambled forward, reaching for me. She put her hands on her hips and watched.

I smiled. My amulet-accelerated casting had saved me on more than one occasion, and today was no exception. Before the zombie reached me, I exhaled Freezing Breath at it. The zombie froze solid. Its momentum caused it to fall forward. The poor creature’s frozen body hit the floor and shattered into a hundred pieces.

“Now, where were we?” I said, fascinated by the sight of zombie bits scattered on the floor.

“You were matching wits with a mindless zombie,” she replied. Keeping her eyes on me, she backed toward the open doorway behind her.

“Surely, you’re not going to flee again,” I said.

“What’s the matter,” she replied. “Isn’t your stamina what it used to be?”

What was with the personal insults, I wondered. It was time to finish the pursuit. Again, I grasped my magic amulet, and began a spell.

I raised the amulet with my left hand, and placed my right palm on my right temple. I chanted the ancient words to cast Mind Control on the red sorceress. Once cast, the contest would be over, as she would comply with my thoughts for long enough for me to physically constrain her.

Zanara must have recognized my spell. Quick as lightning, she reached over and grabbed a pewter serving dish. She hurled the plate like a discus at me. I knew that a plate is not as dangerous as, say, an axe, but instinct took over and I dodged to my left. The loss of concentration disrupted the spell.

I cursed, again in the modern tongue.

“What’s the matter, Xergor? Do you find me distracting?” she asked with one hand on her hip. Without waiting for a response, she spun and ran out the door. I pursued her.

We found ourselves in the kitchen. It was dusty and cluttered. Dirty dishes were piled in the sink, and the ashes of old fires had not been swept out of the fireplace. A simple square wooden table sat in the center of the room, but its top was not visible under a pile of foodstuffs, empty sacks, and a coil of rope. There were four tall chairs, one placed at each side of the table. In the corner was a bucket of soapy water, and against the wall near it leaned a well-worn mop.

At that moment, the most appealing feature of the room was that it had only one doorway, and I stood in it. Zanara was on the other side of the room near the corner. I took a moment to savor her predicament. “Well, looks like your back is to the wall,” I teased.

“When I’m finished with you, your back will be on the ground,” she retorted, never at a loss for words.

Now for the finish, I thought. I spread my arms wide and began chanting. Victory would soon be mine.

Zanara was cornered. We both knew she was out of options. She couldn’t flee, she couldn’t cast faster than I, and she couldn’t win a physical confrontation. Nevertheless, her eyes blazed and she remained defiant. She grabbed the mop in her right hand to use as a crude club. A frying pan in her left hand served as a makeshift shield. I gave her a nod of grudging acknowledgement.

A final time, I raised the amulet in my left hand. I squatted to grab a pinch of dust from the floor. Zanara spewed invective, including biologically impossible theories about my lineage, but I was not distracted. I uttered the ancient words to cast Blinding Dust and charged at her.

Fast as a mongoose grabs a snake, the red sorceress raised the shield to her eyes, and kicked over the bucket of water. In hindsight, my choice of spells could have been better. The Blinding Dust obscured my vision, and I lost my footing on the wet floor as I charged her.

I fell with little grace, and banged my head on the floor. While I was prone, the red sorceress leapt on top of me, pinning my arms to the ground with her knees. Her hands were free to grab my collar.

Maintaining a firm grip, she leaned her face close to mine and said, “I win. It’s your turn to clean the kitchen, Xergor.”


Author: Henry Herz

Children's book author

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